Posts tagged “classroom management

Me Management

A role play during The Better Plan 2 class, which just ended yesterday.

A role play during The Better Plan 2 class, which just ended yesterday.

I am getting more requests to share The Better Plan with principal and teacher groups. The invitation follows a similar pattern – someone reads the Soul Shapers book, or hears me giving a short talk somewhere, and they ask their principal or superintendent if my sharing The Better Plan in their neck of the woods could be arranged. The person doing the inviting, the superintendent or director, may not have read Soul Shapers, yet here they are about to give the hearts and minds of their educators to someone they don’t know much about. And so I get asked, “Now what is it you present?”

Classroom clean-up almost done following The Better Plan 2 class. It has been a very meaningful week.

Classroom clean-up almost done following The Better Plan 2 class. It has been a very meaningful week.

I was actually responding to an invitation this past week at the same time that The Better Plan 1 class was in session. So I explained the situation to them and asked them to write a half page on what they saw as the essence of The Better Plan. They were asked to write to one of the following prompts:

The Better Plan is –
What I learned from The Better Plan is –

Their responses, which appear below, are instructive and invitational to each of us.

The Better Plan is about empowering individuals to choose. Unlike a classroom management class, which focuses on children being better controlled by the adult, I actually found it to be a me-management class. It makes a case for abandoning traditional methods and embarking on a new adventure – an adventure of becoming what we want our students to become.   Karie

What I learned from attending The Better Plan is that although we have been engrained with external control, we actually were created with free will. Choice theory, it turns out, compliments the way we are wired.     Lisa

What I have learned from The Better Plan is how to be more inclusive of others’ Quality World. I have learned that we have certain biases that cannot be avoided, because of how we view the real world through the lenses and filters we have had through time. Realizing that others also have these biases, and then being willing to explore each others’ perspectives can lead to a better world.   Tammy

Though I am trying to figure out exactly what it means. I do know that it means we choose everything we do, even our misery. Now I am trying to figure how I will apply it to my life and in my classroom. I also understand what it is not. The Better Plan is not coercion or manipulation; it is not the “deadly habits” or external controlling behaviors. So, since I know what it is not, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will strive to not coerce, manipulate, use external control and deadly habits in my life and classroom. Vickie

The Better Plan is a way of thinking about the world, especially when it comes to how we view other people. Primarily aimed at helping those in education professions, it is applicable to all human relationships – marriage, parenting, work settings, and boards. The Better Plan teaches us to understand Choice Theory, which maintains that we can only control ourselves; we cannot control anyone else. To work together effectively, we must seek to develop relationships, rather than attempting to use the “deadly” habits of criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, bribing, or rewarding to control. While these deadly habits are all too common in our family and work relationships, we can begin to practice this Better Plan by intentionally applying Choice Theory practices and continuing to learn and teach what we are learning to those around us.   Brad

What I learned from The Better Plan is that kids learn in many different ways. They think differently than teachers and just because the teacher sees it one way doesn’t mean the student will see it that way, too. In order to reach students, teachers need to involve them in making the learning meaningful. Education must be need-satisfying for students.     Kory

The Better Plan is about inspiring students to be responsible for themselves, to strengthen the many positive qualities they have, and to invite them to live by faith, grow in the Holy Spirit, and choose a life with Christ.   Leslie

What I have learned from The Better Plan is . . . so much. The most powerful part of the whole thing, though, is this – the only person I can control is myself. BAM!!   Krystalynn


It's even hard to erase the white board after The Better Plan 2 class.

It’s even hard to erase the white board after The Better Plan 2 class.

I really like the idea of “me-management” as a way of describing The Better Plan. I like the idea that The Better Plan honors the way in which God originally created us and wired us. I like that it sees the individuality of students and seeks to meet their unique needs. And I especially like that The Better Plan helps each of us grow in the Holy Spirit and choose a life with Christ.

Me Management and the Total Package

So, is The Better Plan about classroom management? I could answer that question with a Yes and I could answer that question with a No. Maybe a better way to ask the question would be “Will The Better Plan affect my classroom management?” The answer to this last version of the question is a resounding Yes! “What’s the difference?” you might be thinking.

When we learn about choice theory and its principles begin to influence our thinking and our behavior, it affects all of our relationships and everything we do. It positively infiltrates every aspect of our lives. It is like wearing a pair of glasses with a color-tinted lens. Everything we see is different than before. Our relationship with Jesus is seen in a new light; our relationships with the significant people in our life are seen differently; and yes, if I am a teacher, the way I manage my classroom will be profoundly and wonderfully affected. More than just a classroom management strategy, The Better Plan is about the total package of our lives!

Freedom Calls Us to a Higher Standard


Why do external enforcers like threats and punishments not work as well as an internal control environment based on freedom? Maybe some insights from sixth graders can help shed light on the topic.

“It’s weird, I know, but that’s how things work. My old teacher was big into control, lots of threatening and punishing. Probably more threatening, but it was pretty constant. Names on the board, calling parents, staying in from recess, and not being allowed to go on field trips. We saw it all. Then a different teacher comes in and changes things. We have rules and all, don’t think we don’t, but it’s different. For one thing, the classroom doesn’t feel like a Zap You kind of place. If you mess up, you need to take responsibility for what you did and deal with the situation. The new teacher actually helps you deal with the situation, too, if you want him to.   Ryan

Before you didn’t feel trusted. You always felt like you were bad somehow, even when you weren’t being bad. Sometimes I acted kind of bad because I felt like, whatever, I’m bad so I might as well act like it. Now I feel like we are trusted more, and it’s like, if I’m trusted I don’t want to break that trust. Do you know what I mean?   Lauren

It was like a competition. You’d come to school kind of wondering   . . . well, like . . . I knew what the teacher wanted and expected from me, but he made such a big deal of forcing me to be that way that I wanted to do the opposite. I wasn’t like that in the lower grades, but I turned out that way in the sixth grade.   Tyler

We all feel freer. Our new teacher wants us to enjoy school. He really does. He doesn’t let us get away with stuff, but we really don’t want to get away with stuff like before anyway. Before it felt like school was kind of a fight every day; the new guy just took the fight out of it. Before I dreamed up ways to cause a little ruckus, now I don’t do that.   Taylor




I like how Desire of Ages (1898) says that “Our little world is the lesson book of the universe.” (p.19) Said another way – we are God’s classroom. And apparently he has had to make the same kind of decisions in his classroom that we make in ours. Hmm . . . force or freedom? In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul explained that we “no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, we live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Rom. 6:14) As we study God’s classroom management plan two words become more and more important – love and choice.

Just prior to the birth of Jesus, Desire of Ages describes how –

The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. (p.22)

God created us with the power of choice and He places incredible value on our freedom. One of the reasons I am drawn to the concepts of choice theory is that it provides me with a psychological framework that complements my view of God, and further helps me to include freedom and grace at home and at school. I want to do what works and freedom and choice do that – they work.



I want to welcome teachers from the Upper Columbia Conference who are now following The Better Plan blog. I hope you will feel free to add to our conversations about non-coercive living. I have very good memories from my time as one of the superintendents in Upper Columbia. Thank you, Sharon Searson, for letting teachers know about The Better Plan.



Click here to access Soul Shapers on Amazon – new copies are going for around $12; used copies for around $4. Contact me at for a signed copy.



Mistakes, Mischief, and Mayhem

There are some things we just never forget!

The phrase “mistakes, mischief, and mayhem” turned out to be one of those things for me. I first saw it in Jane Nelsen’s book, Positive Discipline (1981, 2006), twelve years ago, and it made such an impression on me that it has become a part of my management paradigm, a kind of beacon that, combined with choice theory, helps to point me in the right direction.


Nelsen felt that classroom behaviors can be categorized as either mistakes, mischief, or mayhem, and that our management strategies need to keep these levels of behaviors in mind. For the sake of clarity, the following definitions will help –

Mistakes – misbehaviors that are just that, mistakes. It is easy for us to forget how complex a classroom can be. There are so many expectations regarding how students relate to one another, how they relate to things, how they relate to places, and how they relate to time. Additionally, each of them comes from unique backgrounds that differ greatly. Most of the “misbehavior” in classrooms fit into the mistakes category.

Mischief – misbehavior that has an element of intentionality. It may not have a meanness element to it, however it is distracting, probably draining to the teacher if not corrected, and takes away from the learning environment.

Mayhem – misbehavior that breaks a rule and crosses the line of civility and respect, whether the behavior is directed at fellow students, teacher, or things within the classroom. Mayhem behaviors involve disrespect, disobedience, and/or destruction. These are serious misbehaviors that require a student response, maybe in the form of an action plan to prevent the misbehavior in the future, which also may involve steps to restore what their misbehavior harmed (e.g. – relationship, trust, broken object).

It becomes plain that misbehaviors are not all equal and that a mistake is vastly different than mayhem. Treating each of these misbehaviors on the level they deserve can greatly affect the learning atmosphere of the classroom, and will allow teachers to head home each day without a pit of worry and tension in their stomach.


One common mistake for teachers is to treat any and all misbehavior as mayhem. Teachers may not know about the concept of Procedures or have forgotten about their value and treat all behavior, or lack thereof, on the level of Rules. A student forgets to walk into the classroom after recess – Bam! – he broke a rule; a student leaves her desk and gets a drink during a teacher presentation – Bam! – she broke a Rule. Treating everything like mayhem creates a controlling, tension-filled space that foments rebellion in all kinds of forms.

It is freeing to teachers when they acknowledge that most misbehaviors are simply mistakes that can be prevented or corrected through the use of Procedures. Mistakes don’t have to be about getting in trouble or being punished. Procedures are taught, reviewed, and rehearsed, and when students forget a Procedure they are reminded of it and probably asked to rehearse it correctly.

Harry Wong emphasizes that the first two weeks of school should focus on learning Procedures. Once students “get” the idea of Procedures and know the Procedures needed to get the school year started the classroom environment is then ready for students to “soar!”

Using Procedures to provide helpful classroom structure will prevent most of the usual behavioral issues, although there may still be students who are mischievious in class in a way that distracts from the learning. It is common for mischief to include clowning and various forms of pranks. Mischief can be reduced and eliminated by 1) consistently implementing the Procedures, and 2) creating a need-satisfying classroom. By need-satisfying I mean a classroom where the teacher is intentional about helping students meet their need for purpose, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. In other words, planning activities, events, and opportunities for students with a high need for power to meet that need, and students with a high need for fun to meet that need, and so forth. As teachers we don’t just hope this happens or merely allow it to happen, we plan for it to happen.


Lastly, we hope that mayhem behaviors never occur in our classroom, but inevitably they do. Kids sometimes behave poorly, sometimes very poorly, and when they do we must confront the behavior and assist them toward forming better behaviors. It is important that teachers convey compassion to the student being confronted, but this compassionate spirit should not prevent dealing with such behaviors decisively. Mayhem behaviors (e.g.- defiance of the teacher, attacking another student verbally or physically, willful destruction of school property) may involve a time out or in-school suspension and may involve the student developing a plan to restore what was broken and prevent further incidences in the future. As the teacher I need to have a sense that the student understands the importance of kind and safe behavior and that s/he can make a commitment to kindness, respect, and cooperation. We can’t expect perfection, however we can expect a willingness and a desire to grow in these areas.

And so the 3Ms of classroom behavior are Mistakes, Mischief, and Mayhem. Treating each of them for what they are will go a long way toward student success this year!


Chris Kinney, who teaches at Lower Lake High School, and who was featured in the August 20, 2013, blog (Good Morning, Mr. Kinney) right here in The Better Plan, invited me to come and talk to people at his school about the new Glasser biography and about choice theory in general. So, I will be doing just that tomorrow evening, September 11, from 6:00-7:00 pm. He put together the following flyer, which is really well done. I would love it if local choice theorists could attend this event!



The quickest and cheapest way to access William Glasser: Champion of Choice is to purchase the eBook version at the following link –

Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted. (We've been stuck on 16 for a while.)

Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted. (We’ve been stuck on 16 for a while.)

Essential Elements in a Classroom Management Class?


In two weeks I will start teaching a class on Classroom Management to undergraduate, pre-service teaching candidates. What would you suggest as an essential learning or an essential element to include in a course on classroom management?

Thanks in advance for your help with this!

Three Types of People – Awesome, Dangerous, and Run

Three Types of People



It is so interesting to me how involved human beings are in creating their own reality. I think this is one of choice theory’s important contributions to understanding our own beliefs and behaviors.

In our Soul Shapers 1 class last week we covered the quality world, the photo album in our heads where we store specific pictures of everything that is need-satisfying to us, and the perceived world, which basically is our view of reality. Choice theory describes how we create pictures that represent what we want;  choice theory also describes how we create a world view that represents what we think we have. This explains how a person can be so sure of his/her interpretation of an event, in spite of viable alternative interpretations or data that says otherwise. (Imagine a wife being incredulous as she wonders aloud to her moody husband, “You took it that way when I said that?” Really?”) An alumnus of a choice theory training I did last summer sent me the graphic above, which really portrays the possible views of reality.

In #1 the arrangement is considered healthy because the person understands that his view of reality may contain elements of the Truth (I use a capital T on purpose), or reality as it really is, but he also recognizes that his view may not be totally accurate. Such a position allows for growth and new learning as new information and experiences come into view. Such a person believes in his view of Truth, but he also allows others to follow their path toward Truth.

In #2 the arrangement is becoming dangerous because the person believes that his views all fit within what is ultimately True and real. He might not have all the Truth yet and may not have a total picture of reality, but he is in the right place to discover Truth. It is good that this person allows for not knowing everything yet; it is less healthy, and even dangerous, since the person has defined the bounds of Truth and his views all come within those boundaries.

In #3 the arrangement has reached a point where the rest of us can only be encouraged to run away from this person as fast as we can. This person believes that his view of reality is exactly the same as Truth; that the world as he sees it and prefers it is exactly as it should be.  Such a view becomes especially dangerous when a person believes that his view is ordained by God.

Because I believe in the first arrangement, the one where a person may perceive reality exactly as it is, and then again may not, does not make me a relativist. To me, such a view doesn’t mean anything goes. I have beliefs that I hold dear, including beliefs about God and His role in the creation and redemption of humankind, yet I embrace these beliefs through faith. I can’t prove them, at least in the way we think of the word prove. I have beliefs about how people should treat one another and the role that government should play toward providing a fair playing field for all citizens, and my beliefs may be right, although I recognize I don’t have a pipeline to Truth. I am convinced that Truth, capital T exists, and I desire to find it and come more and more into alignment with it.  Rather than thinking that I have arrived at Truth and Reality, I appreciate it when others can improve my views and help me see things more clearly.


Tomorrow is the last day of Soul Shapers 2. It’s been a very good week. I’ve appreciated the Soul Shapers alumni that have joined us each day to join in the role plays and provide added coaching. The role plays were really good today. We’ve eased into the role plays, starting with attainable wants, but moving into more challenging scenarios today. The role play below has a teacher talking with a student who was involved in a fight again and may be expelled from school. I should have recorded it as it was that good! Sean Kootsey, History teacher at Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy, in the role of teacher, talks with Yuliana Pandjaitan, Math teacher at Newbury Park Academy, who is in the role of the student who was caught fighting.  Both Sean and Yuliana hit this role play out of the park! So well done. Yuliana played the role of the student a little “too” well. 🙂  Dan Muhic, Science teacher at Napa Adventist Christian School, is in the role of observer and will help Sean and Yuliana in the process of self-evaluation when the role play is completed. Herb Dunn, Industrial Technology and Business teacher at Monterey Bay Academy, also observes and will give feedback to the trio afterward.

What to do after being caught for fighting?

What to do after being caught for fighting?

While the class includes instruction and discussions and film clips and guest presentations and group activities, role playing is at the heart of the advanced Soul Shaper workshop. It is pretty amazing the way in which insights and skills can be gained through role playing real-life scenarios.

External Standards vs. External Control

Do you want a doctor who “thinks” she has learned enough to do your surgery?

Writing from a coffee shop in Spokane, Washington, this morning. Margaret and I are on our way to Missoula, Montana, to see our son, Jordan, graduate from law school. More on Jordan and law school this weekend.

Tim Mitchell and Jim Weller brought up great questions regarding the process of evaluation and specifically, self-evaluation, and today, Bob Hoglund, senior faculty at William Glasser, Inc., and the chairperson of the Glasser board in the U.S., adds to our understanding in the following article –

External Expectations and Standards vs. External Control
Bob Hoglund, Senior Faculty, WGI

With Dr. Glasser’s emphasis on External Control Psychology vs. Choice Theory®, it seems necessary to distinguish between reasonable external expectations (standards) and external control. Consider the following:

  • Do you want a pilot who self-evaluated that he is able to fly a passenger jet?
  • Do you want a farmer to self-evaluate that his meat is acceptable for consumers?
  • Do you want a manager who NEVER gives you feedback or direction?
  • Do you want an auto company to decide on its own that the problem with the brakes isn’t that bad?
  • Do you want a doctor that “thinks” she’s learned enough to do your surgery?
  • Do you want a dentist that has “decided” he’s ready to do your root canal?
  • The flaw of self-evaluation is… If all you do is self-evaluate, how do you know what you don’t know?

Given the above questions and expected answers, it would seem that there is a place for external standards and evaluations. For example,

  • Teachers provide needed instruction and feedback to their students. Without this, students may not learn properly or may practice incorrect methods.
  • Coaches correct actions to improve skills the players have not yet mastered.
  • Parents provide instruction and limits to teach their children the values and behaviors that they expect.

Many professions require external certifications in order to ensure standards of safety are met; however, unless an individual finds some worth in the external expectations and evaluations, there is little likelihood that he will produce quality work. The key to external evaluation is involving the individual in finding value in expectations and evaluations.

Additionally, it is important for the workers to be taught exactly what is expected of them, prior to any self or external evaluation. Dr. Deming said, “It is not enough to do your best. You must first know what to do and then do your best.” When there are set processes, procedures or policies, rubrics, checklists and other quality tools are helpful to the teaching/learning process and to enhance the quality or self and external evaluations.

When external evaluations are required, there are three factors that increase the likelihood that external evaluation will produce the desired result. External evaluation and information is crucial to our learning and growth. The external evaluation doesn’t “make” us do, think or feel anything. We take the external information and use the “self-evaluation” process to determine if we will use the information we are getting.

The term learner is used from this point forward to represent anyone receiving feedback or evaluation information because successful external evaluation results in learning.

There are three factors that determine the effectiveness of external evaluation?

1. Does it benefit the learner?
a. How will the evaluation be used?
b. Does the learner have a chance to improve the rating/grade or score?

2. Is it wanted / asked for?
a. Does the learner “respect” the source of the evaluation?
b. Does the rating / grade / score mean anything to the learner?

3. Does the evaluation give the learner the information needed to make the necessary improvements?

“Does the evaluation give the learner the information needed to make the necessary improvements” is the crux of the Glasser Quality School Model. Reteach and retest.

Dr. Glasser’s emphasis on self-evaluation and co-verification can coexist with the expectations of external evaluation that are expected in many workplaces and schools. This coexistence can become positive by involving others in the evaluation process.

A suggestion for increasing meaningful methods of external evaluation is to survey the individual(s) who will be evaluated. Questions, such as the following, provide a base from which to build useful, meaningful evaluations.

1. What does your ideal performance review look or sound like?
a. What would you like it to say?
b. What knowledge and skills would be recognized?
c. What accomplishments would be included?

2. In what type of environment do you work best?
a. How do you get along with others?
b. How do you treat others?
c. How do others get along with you?
d. On a scale of 1 to 10, how autonomous would you prefer your job to be?
i. How often do you think you should report your progress?
ii. How would you like to report your progress?

3. What expectations do you have of yourself?
a. What expectations do you think that the company has of you?
b. What expectations seem reasonable to you?
c. What expectations don’t seem reasonable to you?
d. How do you reconcile any differences between the two?

4. What type of evaluation is most helpful for you?
a. When do you want to receive it?
b. How do you want to receive it?

In conclusion, The Three E’s (Hoglund, 2000) provide the framework for optimal benefit:
The expectations and evaluations occur within a positive, supportive, trusting learning and working environment.
The expectations, even when external, have benefits for the learner or worker.
The evaluation is helpful because it meets the above criteria.




Listening to Understand


We may not have ears as big as Abby's, but we still concentrate on really listening to the person talking to us.

We may not have ears as big as Abby’s, but we still concentrate on really listening to the person talking to us.

One of the things I like on Facebook are the concise, insightful quotes and statements that friends share. The quotes often pack a lot of wisdom into a small amount of space. An example of such a quote was recently posted by Maureen Craig McIntosh, a Glasser faculty member from New Brunswick. It read –

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.

Most of us quickly recognize truth in this statement, but don’t let quick agreement cause you to miss some of the deeper truths it contains. An experienced Glasser trainer thought enough of the statement to pass it on to us. What are the choice theory implications of listening to understand? Let’s identify a few –

1. One of the reasons we are quick to reply, rather than listen, is that we think we know what’s best for others. As soon as we hear the problem, we want to let others know about our solution.

2. More than simply wanting to share a solution, another reason we are quick to reply is that we may want to control the person who is talking to us. This can be especially true if the person is one of our children, or a spouse, or one of our students.

3. One of the most need-satisfying things we can do for another person is to truly listen to what he/she is trying to say. Active listening can assist another person in problem-solving for himself, which honors the choice theory axiom that the only person I can control is me.

Billy Joel sang about a New York state of mind; it would seem the idea of listening to understand or listening to reply involves a state of mind, too. Fortunately, a state of mind is something we can influence, a lot. We can choose to concentrate on listening more and talking less. One of Covey’s famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”


Classroom Application

Listening to reply –

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess today.

Teacher: What? What are you talking about?

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess. I just want to stay inside the classroom.

Teacher: That’s ridiculous! You’re coming outside. I can’t have kids all over the place.

Listening to understand –

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess today.

Teacher: I think that might be a first for you. You really don’t want to go outside?

Student: No, I just want to stay in the classroom.

Teacher: Can you tell me what it’s about? Are you not feeling well?

Student: I guess I feel ok; I just want to hang out in here.

Teacher: You know, it felt a little bit like something was troubling you when you came in the classroom at the start of school this morning.

Student: (shrugs)

Teacher: Would you be willing to come outside and hang out with me as I supervise the playground? If you’re ok with talking about it, I would like to hear what you’re thinking this morning. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s ok, too. And if you don’t want to hang out with me at all, you can sit on the bench outside of the classroom. I’m ok with that. Would either of those options work for you?

Student: (smaller shrug) Yeh, I guess I could hang out with you. That’d be ok.

Home Application

Listening to reply –

Wife: I got offered a promotion today at work.

Husband: Wow! Way to go!

Wife: Yeh, I probably should be excited, but I just . . . I don’t know.

Husband: What do you mean, you don’t know? You’ve earned it. Ya gotta go for it! I assume there would be a raise and we definitely could use the money.

Listening to understand –

Wife: I got offered a promotion today at work.

Husband: Wow! Way to go!

Wife: Yeh, I probably should be excited, but I just . . . I don’t know.

Husband: It looks like you have mixed feelings about it.

Wife: Yeh, I do. I really do. A part of me realizes it is a great opportunity, while another part of me likes what I have going right now. (pauses)

Husband: (gives a little smile, but doesn’t break the silence)

Wife: The promotion offers more pay.

Husband: Besides more money, how would your life change if you took the job?

Wife: I’ve thought about that a lot. (pauses) I see what supervisors have to do, the way they spend their days, and the problems they are expected to solve, and there is just nothing in me that wants that. I really like what I do now. I look forward to going to work on most days. (pause) And I like that my schedule is so good for our home. I can pick the kids up after school, which is a huge advantage compared to what I see other parents juggling. The extra pay is tempting, but I don’t think it outweighs all that.


We’ll close today with another quote that captures something important with very few words. I was alerted to it by Bette Blance, a choice theory leader in New Zealand. The quote reads –

Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.

As the wife was talking to her husband in the last scenario about her possible promotion there were several times when she paused and silence filled the moment. Yet her husband did not jump in and fill the silence with his ideas. He simply remained silent, too, and let his wife work through her thoughts. Like the quote says, Think about it.


Unpublished Glasser Article

Bill Glasser 1977 (contributed by Jim Roy)

Bill Glasser 1977 (contributed by Jim Roy)

Going through some of my Glasser artifacts recently I came across a short article he wrote over 30 years ago. Based on the author bio info at the end of the article I would say it was written in 1980. The article was typed, maybe by Glasser himself, but probably it was dictated by him and then typed by someone else. By 1980 Glasser had met William Powers and had been introduced to the ideas of control theory, ideas that deeply influenced him.

Bill Glasser 1981

Bill Glasser 1981

I don’t think the article – titled Some Thoughts About Raising Children – was ever published. I am sharing it with you, exactly as it is written, for several reasons.

1. It is enjoyable to read Glasser’s ideas, especially a potential article that may have slipped through the cracks and gotten overlooked.

2. Do you detect a reason why the article may have been filed away or even rejected? You will be reading the exact draft that I have. Would editing help make the article stronger?

3. Do you think Glasser would have written this article 20 or 25 years later? Did he end up modifying any of the ideas expressed in the article in 1980 later in his career?

Ok, those are the thought questions to get you started; here’s the article.



William Glasser, M.D.
President, Institute for Reality Therapy

     What do we owe our children and what do they owe us? Book after book, from the Bible to Spock, has attempted to answer these questions and the parade continues because no book seems to satisfy any parent for long. We wish there were a child-rearing manual like that which comes with a Mercedes but we are not machines. We are living creatures driven, as no other creature is, by strong, often conflicting forces. Because we must discover an infinite variety of ways to satisfy these forces the definitive how-to book will never be written. It follows, therefore, that we will never know how to raise our children. If we can accept the uncomfortable premise that here there are no right answers then I believe we have the chance to succeed reasonably well in this difficult task. And even if our success is minimal we will do them less harm than if we tried to follow any current “truth.”

Regardless of what we do, and granted that there is no universal way, most of us want our children to be happy, to love and respect us, and to be successful in some way that we define success. Because we tend to love them extravagantly most of their lives most of us will have no trouble accepting that we owe them food, shelter, safety and our companionship. But, as hard as this may be to accept, they, I believe, owe us nothing; if we want their love we must earn it. This is not hard to do as long as we do not attempt to cajole, coerce, or force them to be the people that satisfy us.

What we should be sensitive to from early on is what they want. Then as much as we can, rather than to give them things we should make an effort to take the additional time to teach them how to satisfy their needs themselves. If, however, what they want is in conflict with what we believe, as it often will be, as they mature, we should, in words they can understand, state our beliefs. But along with telling them what is important to us we should encourage them to try to convince us that their needs are worthy of our support. This means that we should listen to them and if they are at all convincing help them to get what they want. If we are unconvinced we should continue our argument but also make an effort (and it will be an effort) not to criticize them or to use our parental power to stand directly or indirectly in their way.

Assure them from the time that they can comprehend it that we believe in the way we live our lives, but that our way is not necessarily the best way, the only way or the way for them. And as our way changes, as it will, show them that we can be tolerant of ourselves as we change. From this they will learn that they too have a way but that it is not the only way and that they should be tolerant of themselves as they change.

Assuming that we can do this, especially to refrain from criticizing them, we have a chance, even a good chance (there are no sure things in this delicate process) to enjoy the reward which is a child who loves us, respects us, and enjoys spending time with us. But if we achieve this reward we should be cautious and resist the temptation to gain more, that is to convince these “good” children that they also be what we want them to be. It is our failure to resist this ever-present temptation that causes most of us who succeed for quite a while eventually to fail. If we are getting along well and then they start to slip away it will be because it is so difficult in raising children to keep the ancient proverb, “let well enough alone.”

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William Glasser, M.D. is the President and Founder of the Institute for Reality Therapy, incorporated in 1967. His major books are Reality Therapy, Schools Without Failure, The Identity Society, and Positive Addiction. All are published by Harper & Row and Reality Therapy and The Identity Society are available in German translations. Two new books have been written. Available now is What Are You Doing?, a series of cases written by Reality Therapists and edited by Naomi Glasser. To be available in March of 1981 is Stations of the Mind, a new book linking how our brain functions to Reality Therapy. Both are published by Harper & Row.

Dr. Glasser has worked in schools, correctional institutions, mental hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. He teaches and lectures all over the world and still conducts a small private practice. People interested in further information about Reality Therapy and training programs can write to:

Institute for Reality Therapy
11633 San Vincente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049


Don’t write to the above address. There are no Glasser offices on San Vincente anymore, although some of you reading this will remember that place fondly.

If you are so inclined let me know how you respond to the thought questions before the article. Would Glasser have written this article 20 years later?


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Sticking It In Their Ear

Newspaper article from 1962

Newspaper article from 1962

Early in Glasser’s career he emphasized the idea of being responsible. Reality Therapy (1965) echoed this theme a lot. Taken as part of the overall elements of reality therapy – elements like involvement, no punishment, and never give up – responsibility could be kept in perspective. However, Glasser soon discovered that teachers were taking the idea of responsibility and using it as a hammer to whip kids into shape. Seeing that people were misusing the idea he began to pull back from it.

Early on he was also known as an expert on classroom discipline and his “get tough” approach was advertised in national magazines. He let this happen for a while, but realized that such a message didn’t accurately capture what he was trying to do. Once again, he began to pull back from what people thought he was saying.

We still face this challenge today. We love the sound of choice theory and are drawn to its application, yet when we have marinated for so long in external control (reward/punishment) it is easy to go back to what we know. Teachers chuckle in agreement when I suggest that it is possible to use internal control strategies in an externally controlling way. As Glasser used to say, “It’s easy to believe in choice theory, but it’s hard to do.”

I thought about this during our recent Choice Theory Study Group as we focused on the concept of total behavior. Key pieces of total behavior include that 1) all behavior is purposeful and that 2) all behavior is made up of four parts – thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology. A key piece of total behavior is that two of the four parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control.

And this is where a potential problem lurks. In the same way that teachers back in the 60s and 70s misunderstood and misapplied the idea of responsibility as Glasser intended, teachers today might be tempted to tell students that they are responsible for their own thinking and acting. If something is under our direct control, like how we act, then it may seem reasonable to emphasize this to students, even to bombard them with it.


This is the thing, though. Gaining insight into total behavior and understanding how it applies to you personally doesn’t come from someone else telling you about it, especially during a tense moment when they may be telling you to get your act together. Such insight comes from being gently led toward the concept and being asked the right questions at the right moments.

One of my mentors, a man who taught me so much about supervising teachers, shared that

“It is better to get something out of someone’s mouth,
than it is to put it into their ear.”

As teachers and parents this can be our goal, too. Total behavior is correct, in my opinion, and our having direct control over our thinking and behavior is correct, too. Helping our children and students realize that, without damaging our relationship with them, is our challenge. Somehow we need to help them talk about what the idea of total behavior means to them, rather than just sticking the concept in one of their ears.


A news story out of Colorado caught my eye recently, because it had to do with a school that is replacing traditional suspensions with meaningful conversations. They call it restorative justice. It sounds pretty choice theory to me.

At Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colo., students, parents and administration are meeting face-to-face to resolve student conflict with conversation. The number of physical altercations has taken a nosedive as this new type of disciplinary action, called “restorative justice,” replaces suspension. Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

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